Duct Tape for a Good Night's Sleep

July 04, 2016

Duct-Tape for a Good Night's Sleep


 Reference: Airwayfit.com, Jr Physiology, Red-Green Show, Otol Head Neck Surg 2015

 Ok! Here's the story. Sleep apnea is being identified as a greater and greater risk for many conditions, including Alzheimer's, heart attack, obesity, and many other wicked conditions. It keeps climbing the list of medical problems that we haven't generally addressed. 

If you take hospitalized folks over age 50, 40% have it. Well, if it's so common, how come we don't understand the cause and the treatment? The common wisdom is that as we get older, you throat muscles get softer and weaker, and you can't inhale strongly enough to break the collapsing airway. The human airway has elongated over the last 100,000years as we developed articulate speech. That longer shape leads to more muscles that can get mushy with age. 

That makes sense. It also seems to make sense that added weight on our chests and bellies makes it harder to breathe as we sleep. But that may not be the key. The key may be how you breathe. Mouth breathing versus nose breathing results in quite different air quality changes in the back of your throat. 

When you breathe through your nose, you have all sorts of surface area of nasal turbinates to humidify the air. When you breathe through your mouth, the air gets to the back of your throat faster, and dryer. Guess what happens when you dry out your mucous membranes? Yup, you got it. When they come together, they are a bit stickier. You learned this in first grade when you started using glue. You have to hold the glue together until it dries a little, so it sticks better. That's why glue sticks work better than liquid glue. Same in the back of your throat. 

When you breathe through your mouth, as most snorer's do, your throat dries up. When it dries up, it sticks. When it sticks, you have to break the seal with extra effort. That extra effort wakes you up. Presto, sleep apnea. Could it be that simple? Oh my! You mean, all those expensive, sleep apnea kits could be replaced with something simple that just held your mouth shut? Could Red Green have been right? Could duct tape save your life, keep your brain, preserve your heart? Well, duct tape on your mouth isn't a safe, long term solution. 

But this month's Otolaryngology Jr article reference shows that it works! It reduces volume of snoring, frequency of apnea and just about every other objective measure of apnea severity. Hmmm. Way too interesting. We have to chase this one done. Not much out there yet, but there should be. Stay tuned. 

WWW.what will work for me. I don't snore. I sleep on my side with my face lying to the side. I nose breathe. I haven't caught myself mouth breathing for over a week now, but I'm trying to see if I can catch myself. I am so interested in this idea, I've been telling anyone who will patiently listen to me long enough to hear me out. Forgive me, I think it's a huge advance. We need safe, inexpensive, non-allergenic tape. Got any ideas. Duct tape won't work. 

 Pop Quiz

1. Duct tape can save your life? T or F                               Answer:   False. Only if you are holding your ladder together to get out of a fire in your house. You can't use it on your mouth. ‪

2. Taping your mouth forces you to nose breathe, and cuts down on airway obstructions and sleep apnea. T or F                             Answer:  True, in a small, pilot study of mild sleep apnea breathers ‪

3. Most mammals nose breathe, and we did until our pharynx changed to allow for articulate speech? T or F                               Answer:   That's it. In just the last 100,000 years. One of our most recent changes in humans. ‪

4. Sleep apnea is a terrible risk for all of us. If we want to prevent Alzheimer's, we have to address it aggressively. T or F                           Answer:  True. If you are worried about your brain, worry about your sleeping first. ‪

5. If you wake up feeling tired every day, sleep apnea should be one of your first considerations. T or F           Answer:  Right at the top